Clay Memorial Library in Jaffrey added to National Register of Historic Places
The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources has announced that the Clay Memorial Library in Jaffrey has been honored by the United States Secretary of the Interior by being listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Originally built with a library on the first floor and town offices on the second, the two-and-one-half story Clay Memorial Library was constructed in 1895.
Jaffrey resident Susan Bethiah Clay (1826-93) left a portion of her estate to the town to build the library, noting in her will that it “should contain suitable rooms for books, cases for minerals, and also rooms for use of town officers, and a fireproof vault for safe keeping of town records.” Her gift was part of a pattern of philanthropists funding public library buildings in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, following the example set by Andrew Carnegie.
Clay Memorial Library’s Romanesque Revival style details include a red brick exterior, decorative red sandstone trim and a slightly projected entrance pavilion with a wide semi-circular arch. “Clay Library” is carved in raised sandstone lettering above the arch, which has decorative carved owls on each end.
The general floorplan was typical of a turn-of-the-twentieth century small-town library, including a central hallway with a circulation desk directly across from the entry flanked on either side by spacious reading rooms and with the library stacks located behind the desk. While the circulation desk has been relocated to the building’s historic ell at the north end of the entry hall, the space between its original location and the stacks is made clear by a shallow arch supported by composite pilasters made up of seven grouped Romanesque columns.
Each reading room has red birch paneled wainscot, crown molding, picture rails and a fireplace with a red birch surround and mantel.
Although Jaffrey’s selectmen relocated to new town offices in the mid-1950s, Clay Memorial Library’s second floor space has changed little since the building was opened: wooden floors and plaster walls with vertical bead board wainscot remain in place. The former selectmen’s office, which has a large metal and brick vault, is now the library director’s office.
Clay Memorial Library was designed by architect Henry Martyn Francis (1836-1908), who was known for his designs of churches, public buildings and houses throughout New England. His other New Hampshire library projects include the Romanesque Revival Ingalls Memorial Library in the neighboring town of Rindge (1894) as well as the Claremont Library (1903), Tucker Free Library in Henniker (1903) and Goffstown Public Library (1908), each of which he designed with his sons.
Located directly across from the primary library entrance, a monument of a bronze Civil War soldier leaning on his musket stands atop a multi-tier dressed granite block, commemorating “the patriotism of her [Jaffrey’s] sons who served in the Union Army and Navy 1861-1865, the Mexican War, the War of 1812-1814, and the American Revolution.” It was dedicated on May 16, 1900.
Both Clay Memorial Library and the Soldier’s Monument were included as contributing resources when the Downtown Jaffrey Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
Administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of historic resources worthy of preservation and is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect our historic and archaeological resources.
Listing to the National Register does not impose any new or additional restrictions or limitations on the use of private or non-federal properties. Listings identify historically significant properties and can serve as educational tools and increase heritage tourism opportunities. The rehabilitation of National Register-listed commercial or industrial buildings may qualify for certain federal tax provisions.
In New Hampshire, listing to the National Register makes applicable property owners eligible for grants such as the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program or LCHIP (lchip.org) and the Conservation License Plate Program (nh.gov/nhdhr/grants/moose).
For more information on the National Register program in New Hampshire, please visit nh.gov/nhdhr or contact the Division of Historical Resources at 603-271-3583.
New Hampshire's Division of Historical Resources, the State Historic Preservation Office, was established in 1974 and is part of the N.H. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. NHDHR’s mission is to preserve and celebrate New Hampshire’s irreplaceable historic resources through programs and services that provide education, stewardship, and protection. For more information, visit us online at nh.gov/nhdhr or by calling 603-271-3483.